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This Is What Metro Melbourne's Five-Step Roadmap Out of COVID-19 Lockdown Looks Like

Restrictions will slowly start easing from 11.59pm on September 13, but life won't be returning to normal just yet.
By Sarah Ward
September 06, 2020
By Sarah Ward
September 06, 2020

As flagged earlier in the week, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has today, Sunday, September 6, advised how the metropolitan Melbourne area will gradually ease out of its current stage four COVID-19 lockdowns. On the cards is a five-step removal of restrictions, taking place from 11.59pm on Sunday, September 13 — but life isn't going to be returning to normal any time soon.

When it was first implemented, metro Melbourne's stage four lockdown was initially set to end on the aforementioned mid-September date; however Premier Andrews has now advised that that isn't able to happen based on current coronavirus case numbers. Instead, some limits will be rolled back, with more to follow on September 28, October 26, November 23 and whenever the powers-that-be decide that a 'COVID normal' scenario — with absolutely no restrictions on gatherings, visitors, hospitality or sport — will be possible. That said, the loosening of limits at each is also dependent on health advice and hitting specific numbers of cases.

"If we open up too fast, then we have a very high likelihood that we are not really opening up at all — we are just beginning a third wave," the Premier explained. "And we will be back in and out of restrictions come in and out of lockdown, before the end of the year... We can't run out of lockdown. We have to take a steady and safe steps out of lockdown, to find that COVID normal. We must take steady and safe steps to find COVID normal and make sure that in opening up we can stay open."

Accordingly, from 11.59pm on Sunday, September 13, Melburnians will still be staying at home under stage four restrictions, which means keeping within five kilometres of your home except for permitted reasons such as work or education (if these can't be done at home) — but some changes will kick in. Firstly, the curfew will be eased by an hour, running from 9pm–5am rather than 8pm. Also, folks will be able to go out to exercise for two hours per day instead of one, and to gather outdoors in public in groups of two, or in their household groups, for two hours as well.

And, for those who live on their own, 'single person bubbles' will come into effect. They'll be like the current arrangements for intimate partners, allowing one person who lives alone to pair up with another person in the same situation to visit each other. The five-kilometre rule won't apply to these social bubbles, but the curfew still will.

Then, from Monday, September 28 — subject to public health advice, and subject to the average daily cases in between 30 and 50 at that point, 14 days before — Melburnians will move to the second step. It'll keep the curfew, and the requirement to stay at home except for the currently permitted reasons, but will increase public outdoor gatherings to five people from two households up to two hours. Some workplaces will be allowed to reopen, affecting around 101,000 workers in the construction, manufacturing, and landscape garden and maintenance industries. Outdoor pools will reopen, and outdoor exercise with a personal trainer will be allowed.

On Monday, October 26, if the daily average number of cases in the last 14 days has been less than five state-wide and there are less than five cases with an unknown source in the prior fortnight, metro Melbourne will move to step three. The curfew will lift completely, as will all restrictions on leaving home — including reasons and distance. There'll still be limits on activities, though, with public gatherings capped at ten people outdoors. In terms of visitors at home, there'll be 'household bubbles', allowing up to five visitors from another nominated household. And, retail and hairdressing will be able reopen, and hospitality will be able to kick back into gear with a focus on outdoor seated service, plus group caps of ten people. Shopping limits will also lift, intrastate travel will be allowed but only to other places in step three, and outdoor venues and events can recommence subject to pre-approved plans.

Earmarked for Monday, November 23 — but only if there have been no new COVID-19 cases for 14 days across the whole state — step four will ramp up public gatherings to 50 people and visitors at home to 20. It'll also allow hospitality businesses to serve indoors, but only for seated patrons, with a group limit of 20 people and with venue caps of 50 people. All intrastate travel will be allowed, and all retail — including beauty and personal care at this step only — can open. And galleries, museums and other entertainment venues will be able to reopen, too, but with density and patron limits in place.

Other than permitted industries allowed to go back to working onsite in the second step, metro Melburnians will be required to keep working from home if they can across all of the above phases. A staged return to normal working arrangements is part of the city's final 'COVID normal' step.

As for what that 'COVID normal' phase fully entails, it'll kick in when there have been no new cases for 28 days, there are no active cases in the entire state, and no outbreaks of concern in other states and territories either. At that point, there'll be no restrictions on public gatherings including weddings and funerals (but organisers will be encouraged to keep attendee records), and no restrictions on visitors at home. There'll be no hospitality limits either, but record-keeping will be required. And, galleries, museums and other entertainment venues will be able to operate with safety measures and record-keeping in place rather than density and patron limits.

A stepped approach will also apply to regional Victoria's path out of COVID-19 restrictions — but with different rules in place, given that everywhere in the state outside metro Melbourne is already only at stage three. Also, beyond the first decrease in restrictions on September 13, the timing of the new steps for regional areas is largely continent on hitting specific case numbers rather working towards exact dates.

For more information about the status of COVID-19 and the current restrictions, head over to the Department of Health and Human Services website — and for further details about Victoria's steps for reopening, head to the roadmap itself.

Top image: Julia Sansone

Published on September 06, 2020 by Sarah Ward
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